City Lights Book Shop gets 2nd life with new owners

Daniel Harvey and his partner, Jennifer Brewe, purchased both the building and the business and want to keep the bookstore running, with tentative plans to add a café, a screening room and a photography studio.

The new owners of iconic London, Ont., bookshop have plans to make it accessible

The new owners of the City Lights Book Shop, London, Ont., couple Daniel Harvey and Jennifer Brewe, take possession of the building and the business at the end of the month. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Fans of London's City Lights Book Shop can rest easy. The doors of the shop that first opened in 1975 will remain open.

The new owners, Daniel Harvey and his partner Jennifer Brewe, purchased the building for $750,000 and the business for $100,000. They take possession on Nov. 30.

"We know that used bookstores on their own might not do very well," said Harvey who currently owns a photography studio in Wortley Village. "But when you combine it with a few other ideas ... we know we can keep it afloat and keep it going."

Some of the many book shelves stacked high at the City Lights Book Shop, which has been open since 1975. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Current owners and business partners Teresa Tarasewicz and Jim Capel, who bought the storied bookstore on Richmond Street in 1992 from pot activist-turned People's Party of Canada candidate Marc Emery put the building up for sale earlier this fall.

"Places need new energy," said Tarasewicz. "Keeping it a bookshop is important for the city as our customers have told us ever since we spoke about putting the shop and building up for sale.

"It is a gift to be keeping a heritage building and business going," she said.

Harvey's first order of business is to bolster the bookstore's website and put some of the inventory online. He also wants to make the two-storey building, which sells books on both floors, wheelchair accessible.

New owner Daniel Harvey believes used bookstores play an important role in a community. He also hopes to make some of the store's inventory available online. (Daniel Harvey)

Harvey has used a wheelchair for the last 18 years, after sustaining a spinal cord injury.

"I'm not able to actually get to the second floor. I purchased the business and the building, and I haven't even seen the inventory on the second floor," he said.

Plans to re-invent the space

Harvey's longtime friend, Drew Nelles, will co-manage the store. For the last two years, the pair had been talking about buying a used bookstore, even musing over text that they'd love to own City Lights one day.

"Used bookstores are very important parts of the community and can be important hubs," said Harvey.

"So the fact that just a few months after we were sending these text messages to each other, then the owners somehow they read our minds and the rest is history, I guess."

Harvey and his good friend-turned bookstore manager Drew Nelles had been texting about buying City Lights Book Shop back in May, before it was for sale. (Submitted by Daniel Harvey)

Contractors are currently surveying the turn-of-the-century building, to give Harvey a better idea of what's possible for his new business.

Harvey said depending on what he learns, he'd like to add a café, a screening room and a photography studio to the space.

"There's a lot of like what-ifs."


Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna. Contact Rebecca at or follow @rebeccazandberg on Twitter.


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